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Golden Knights buyers at Deadline, 'trying to win right now'

Expansion team, Western leaders trade three draft picks for Tatar

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

There was never a "Eureka!" moment for Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee.

Not one specific trigger point or game he could circle during this magical ride of an expansion season when McPhee realized they might be buyers, not sellers, at the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline.

Instead of waiting and watching, McPhee was proactive and purposeful Monday, acquiring Tomas Tatar in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings. Vegas parted with a first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and a third-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft for the 27-year-old forward.


[RELATED: Tatar traded to Golden Knights by Red Wings2017-18 NHL Trade Tracker]


"He's a younger player," McPhee said. "He's quick, he's competitive and he can score. He scored 20 goals a season over the last three years and he's on that pace to do it again (16 in 62 games). We didn't want to trade draft picks for someone that isn't going to be here after the summer. He has three years left on his contract. We were happy about that.

"He can play left side, right side. He can play up and down the lineup. … Again, he's a mature player but he's still young."

Tatar has 28 points this season, and 222 (115 goals, 107 assists) in 407 NHL games after being selected by Detroit in the second round (No. 60) of the 2009 NHL Draft.

McPhee rarely strays from his tried-and-true belief of keeping first-round draft picks at the deadline. If there was ever the right time to change course, this was it. The Golden Knights (41-16-4) entered Monday with the second-best record in the NHL, one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning, and leading the Pacific Division by 11 points over the San Jose Sharks.

Vegas has set almost every significant wins record for an NHL team in its inaugural season.

Video: The crew discuss the Tatar to VGK trade

"I don't think anyone expected this team to be where it is at this point," McPhee said. "But as I said before, we did the very best we could to build the best team we could. These are the results so far.

"I don't know how much it affected this deadline; I guess trading your first-round pick would be inconsistent for an expansion team. What we're doing is not too inconsistent with the overall plan."

Surprisingly, the decision to part with that first-round pick was not an agonizing one.

"It was easy," McPhee said. "The picks we gave up are spread over four drafts … not a problem for us. It was the way we were hoping to do a deal today."

Vegas surfaced in multiple reports as a potential trade partner for Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion said Monday that the Senators did not actively shop Karlsson but acknowledged they wouldn't be doing their job "if we wouldn't be at least listening on offers."

Video: Jackie Redman talks with Ryan Reaves on his new team

McPhee was asked about reports of that interest in Karlsson.

"I'm not going to comment on specific teams or players," McPhee said. "I can tell you that we were very aggressive. We were buyers at the deadline. 

"We're happy with where we are. We kept our young players, used surplus picks and [NHL salary] cap space to accomplish our goals.

"We had many discussions with many teams over the past three weeks and explored a lot of things."

This was McPhee's first trade deadline with Vegas, but the 59-year-old has experience dealing with the hectic nature of the process, having been GM of the Washington Capitals for 17 seasons.

His last deadline with the Capitals was in 2014. Little has changed since then, he said, that the last 15 minutes is a scramble, estimating that is when probably 90 percent of the trades are submitted to NHL Central Registry.

"They're really similar," McPhee said. "It's a very intense period. It can be stressful at times. You're trying to help your club and make the right trades for your club now and for the future. But it's a good question.

Video: The guys on the trade deadline winners and losers

"It's a very intense time, a lot riding on what you do. You try to take care of your team, your players, your fan base, franchise. … As a manager, you bear all the liability."

McPhee said he thought he owed it to this team to keep it intact, believing the changes they made leading up to the deadline, also acquiring forward Ryan Reaves on Saturday in a complicated three-way trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, would not be disruptive.

"Our chemistry will even be better," McPhee said. "Our room will even be better and our team will even be better.

"This team deserves to be together and we kept them together for a reason. … We're trying to win right now."

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